How Shaping Benefits Around the QEX Premise Pays Off for Everyone

By Jennifer Ortmeyer

Studies show that service workers – particularly in client and patient environments – are more stressed than most, and for any number of reasons.

According to the first-ever report of its kind, the Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being, various issues contribute to the problem. For example, too many – 31% – experience some form of verbal abuse, versus 22% of office workers. And feelings of loneliness or isolation while on the job are more common among this group (35%) than for those doing office work (23%).

As the population of Americans trends older, services from housing to healthcare have never been more important. Yet recruiting and retaining staff at all levels is a challenge in every setting. It all comes together to help make the case for employers in aging services organizations to take a hard look at how they are structuring employee benefits.

Moving away from cookie-cutter benefits design

Many employers are changing the basis for the design of their employee benefits programs to one that departs from cookie-cutter offerings to one that delivers an individualized and quality employee experience – or QEX.

It takes a keen understanding of workers and the pressures they deal with in life and in work. From there, it requires an expanded focus that integrates the social determinants of health with traditional considerations of health behaviors and clinical care. Economic, environmental and social inequities frequently combine to add to the risk of illness and injury, as well as employees’ ability to access care.  

A QEX strategy takes into account the tangible and intangible factors that shape the employee’s workplace experience. Worksite factors, such as onsite claims, cost of insurance, payroll and physical environment, are tangible. No less important, though, are intangible cultural factors like social environment, communication, educational opportunities and mental wellness.

The employer challenge is to identify how they can influence those factors, by planting human resources and benefits solutions at the point where an individual’s life experience intersects with the employee experience.

Start by gathering and leveraging insights

It takes solid insight into the workforce to develop an effective QEX program. One step is to undertake employee persona analysis, delving into the characteristics, experiences and behaviors of different employee groups. This can reveal where they are at in their careers, whether they are married with young children or looking at retirement, and the distinct pressures they face. This can also uncover their relationships with benefits, leading the way to offerings that are valued and most likely to be used.

Persona analytics can be strengthened with snapshot demographic data, such as age and gender. And to really dig in to determine what matters? Ask via surveys. Also use analytics to track which benefits are most utilized and by which employee groups.

Ultimately, a QEX program requires the grounding that such analytics provide. This helps employers avoid making assumptions about what employees need and value – on the job and at home. This is fundamental for contributing to experiences that employees will embrace, remember and appreciate.

Why it matters

Every day, employees are dealing with typical life experiences such as marriage, divorce, children, schooling and its costs, and aging parents. But an expanded focus should really be on other experiences that don’t regularly rise to that same level of impact for everyone: loss of a family pet; the stress of a promotion or transfer; death of a family friend; a change in child care.

The individual may only live through such situations once a year, but it’s a different story collectively, when hundreds or thousands of employees are involved. When HR can step in with the right resources, the employee’s life and work experience are positively affected.

Consider one manager who, in the space of a year, used the following QEX-style benefits: Emergency child care. Adult caregiver support. Mental health resources. Legal and identity theft services. Without available and accessible employer solutions, she likely would have spent nights and weekends away from work, trying to address these issues.

That could easily represent 100 hours or more if there had been no support, and it underscores the value of QEX for employers, too. Determining a quantifiable return on investment for instituting such a program can be a challenge. But the vast majority of QEX benefits are no-cost or low-cost for the employer to offer. And getting it back in improved productivity, reduced turnover and heightened loyalty?


About the author

Jennifer Ortmeyer is senior vice president of benefits, Northwest region, for global insurance brokerage Hub International.